The first-ever College World Series was played in 1947, when four teams from the eastern half of the U.S. and four teams from the western half met in a playoff, with the winner of each playoff advancing to the College World Series. Umpires from the American League were used to officiate the College World Series, which was played in Michigan, not Omaha, Nebraska, like it is today.
Those are just a few of the differences in the College World Series from 1947 to today.
The field was eight times smaller
The first-every College World Series included just eight schools, divided into an Eastern and Western Playoff. The Eastern Playoff featured Clemson, Illinois, NYU and Yale, while the Western Playoff included California, Denver, Oklahoma and Texas.
The Mississippi River was the dividing line between teams competing in the Eastern and Western Playoff.
The eight teams each represented a district. For example, Oklahoma came from district five and Texas represented district six.
Every competing school’s conference affiliation has since changed
Here are the conferences of which seven of the eight participating schools were members during the 1947 College World Series:
- Big Six
- Big Nine
- California Intercollegiate Baseball Association (CIBA)
- Eastern Intercollegiate League (EIL)
- Metropolitan New York Conference (MNYC)
- Southern Conference
- Southwest Conference
Do you think you can match each school to each conference?
Some are easy based on geography, like California competing in the CIBA and NYU in the MNYC, but either due to conference realignment or expansion (resulting in a name change), none of those schools compete in the conference listed above.
The answers, by the way, are Oklahoma in the Big Six, Illinois in the Big Nine, California in the CIBA, Yale in the EIL, NYU in the MNYC, Clemson in the Southern and Texas in the Southwest.
One of the eight schools, Denver, no longer sponsors a DI baseball team.
The days before Omaha became home
Today, Omaha, Nebraska is synonymous with the College World Series. But the first College World Series was held at Hyames Field in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on the campus of Western Michigan University. The Eastern and Western Playoff were held at different locations, with the Eastern Playoff being held at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Western Playoff in Denver.
California and Yale won their respective playoffs and met in the best-of-three College World Series.
Roughly 3,000 fans were in attendance at Hyames Field for the decisive game. The AP reported the field was “chosen because of its central location and because of its fine field,” while noting there wasn’t a professional baseball team in town to compete for fan attendance.
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The media was still learning what to call the CWS
A blurb published in the New York Daily News on June 17, 1947 concluded with “Anybody want to bet the College World Series won’t be playing to big houses five years from now?”
The name “College World Series” hadn’t officially stuck yet, either. A story from the International News Service on June 23, 1947 called it the “first college ‘little world series.'” An Associated Press story earlier in the month called it the “college baseball ‘world series,'” so there was both a level of homage and uncertainty in the first year about the College World Series being named after the Major League Baseball World Series.
Smaller speed and power numbers
A story published in The Greenville News prior to the 1947 College World Series listed Clemson’s players’ season statistics. Through 24 games, three players were tied for the team lead with three home runs and the Tigers had just 15 long balls in 24 games, which is an average of roughly three home runs every five games.
On the base paths, no one had more than six steals with a team total of 33 steals.
For the sake of comparison, Clemson baseball in 2019 hit 82 home runs in 62 games (1.3 home runs/game) and stole 91 bases (1.4 steals/game). And the Tigers went 35-26, finishing tied for seventh in the ACC. Even an average team today displays much greater speed and power than an elite team in 1947.